Friday, March 27, 2009
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County: Property tax bills expected to be delayed

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[March 27, 2009]  Ten weeks before property tax bills are to go out, officials are saying the mailing won't be on time. Each year Logan County property owners start checking their mailboxes just after June 1, when the bills usually arrive. This year, however, officials are not expecting the bills would be ready to go before June 10.

The tax system is based on property values and begins with an assessment. Farmland values change every year in accordance with land use, therefore an assessment on farm acreage is processed every year.

All other properties are assessed every four years, known as a quadrennial year, unless there are changes that would affect the assessed value. The last quadrennial was just last year, in 2008.

After the assessments are sent out, public notice is posted and there is a 30-day period extended to property owners to contest the previous year's assessment. This year's assessments went out the beginning of March, and taxpayers now have until April 1 to file a petition for a hearing.

The board of review schedules and hears complaints. In a typical year the work is finished by Dec. 31. When the review board has not finished by that date, it takes county board approval to extend that time. It is not uncommon and has been done here in the past, county finance chairman Chuck Ruben said.

Related in part to the tax bill delay, this month the Logan County Board approved two measures. The board of review was granted an extension of time to adjourn, and it was approved that the county treasurer would be permitted to take out tax anticipation bonds.

The bonds would be in the amount of property taxes expected to come in and would be borrowed for the period of April to July, until the property taxes would begin coming in.

Treasurer Mary Ellen Bruns reminded county board members that this year the county had a $278,000 lower levy, which leads to a tighter budget and tighter cash flow. She would take out $848,530 in tax anticipation warrants. The money can be borrowed at a very low interest rate, she said.

"This would help guarantee cash flow does not get too low," Ruben said. He said that this is a common action for counties to take, citing that "it's over six months into the year before you collect one of your biggest revenues." Logan County has done this the past few years, he added.

Roseanne Brosamer, Logan County supervisor of assessments, was also on hand at the county finance committee and the county board meetings this month to explain the delay and the needs.

Brosamer went over the multi-step process that involves decision-making and processing in several local offices along with input from surrounding counties and from the state each year. This is a lengthy process, she said.

The taxing process

The taxing process involves the assessor's office, the county clerk, the state of Illinois and the county treasurer's office.

The property tax process starts in the assessor's office.

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  1. Notices of assessment levels are sent.

    • Everyone who has farmland gets one every year because those rates change every year.

    • Everyone who has a change in assessment due to a property change, such as an addition, gets one.

    • Everyone else gets assessment every four years.

  2. Public notice is given.

    • Everyone is given 30 days from publication of public notice to respond.

  3. The board of review finishes its work.

    • Sends out notices of any assessment changes it makes.

    • Sends an abstract to the state of Illinois.

  4. The state of Illinois issues a multiplier.

    • The state reviews the abstract and issues a final multiplier, "which we always shoot for a 1," Brosamer said.

  5. When the multiplier returns, it is sent to the county clerk's office.

    • Typically the multiplier is received by the end of February or the beginning of March.

    • The county clerk's office applies the rate and extensions to the districts. The figures that the clerk's office must factor in include all the different overlapping district rates, such as school and road districts, fire departments, TIF districts, and enterprise zones.

    • Typically it's in the clerk's office two to three weeks. The wait for rates from the overlapping border counties -- McLean, Tazewell, Mason, Sangamon, Macon and DeWitt -- often delays the process.

  6. County Clerk Sally Litterly releases the final abstract.

    • Sends a final abstract to the state.


  7. A copy of the abstract also goes to the county treasurer's office.

    • Bills for 17,000 parcels are printed and mailed.

    • Public notice is posted

    • Property tax payment is due in 30 days.

In part two we'll look at changes that have been made to the assessment system over the last two years. The new system provides more accuracy and primarily affects only farmland. By state mandate all Illinois counties have implemented the new farmland assessment in accordance with Bulletin 810 and by use of GIS.


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